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Light my fire!

13 Jun

On the recent albeit rare, warm days that we’ve had since summer ‘officially’ started, I’ve learned a little bit more about the idiosyncratic tendencies of our house and garden. Of course this is our first summer here but we’ve lived in the house for six months now, so I thought we knew most things about it already. But that is so not the case.  Recent discoveries, in no particular order:

  1. No matter how hot it gets outside, the rooms downstairs will ALWAYS feel like the (non-existent) air conditioning is set too high (so that’s why if you peak through the living room window on a hot day you’ll see me in a vest top and fleece).
  2. The boys bedroom is the coldest room in the house in winter and the warmest in summer.
  3. The living room is incredibly attractive to ants (be warned small creatures of the earth, I WILL track your home down and block access!)
  4. The trees and shrubs in the front and back garden, with the help of just a little bit of sun and an awful lot of rain can take on forest type dimensions (hence finding a tree surgeon is the next thing on my todo list).

Anyway, it’s all good thankfully. Unlike my friend who found that the summer heat filled her new house with a strange odour that no amount of open windows or air freshener would expunge. It turned out to be a dead rat under her living room floorboards!

Meanwhile, back in the world of diy and home décor, I haven’t been twiddling my thumbs since I got back from Dublin, although I have been more about the research than action, given my current work commitments are quite high. IB and I have decided that over the summer we should replace the fire in the living room, which is a very old-fashioned (circa 1970 unsurprisingly) plastic coal effect electric number.


We can’t make up our mind whether to go for a gas stove or a proper log burning one. With gas stoves, apparently they have ‘realistic flame patterns and excellent efficiency’ (according to the Windsor Fireplaces website). They come in lots of different sizes – far more than I ever realised existed – and some makes even come with a remote controls not to mention ‘large viewing areas’ terminology I wouldn’t normally associate with gas stoves!!!

We do however have a preference for a wood burner particularly given Mr. Tree Surgeon is likely to provide us with enough wood to last a couple of winters, courtesy of the 20foot tall fir trees at the bottom of the back garden. Although at first we didn’t think it would be possible to go for the wood burning option because we haven’t got a chimney but apparently that’s no longer an obstacle as they can be installed with a balanced flue ‘vent’ to an outside wall.

In terms of our options, these are some of the ones I’ve found:




A little too modern for our tastes!

Much better! From woodburning-stoves

So maybe next winter our living room will be just a little bit cosier like these ones featured on housetohome:


Lights, living rooms and cookers!

10 May

So, all bets on the table – will our kitchen get renovated before I manage to burn it down? And no it won’t be a deliberate act of arson……….. in spite of intense provocation. There’s the daily frustration at having burnt another dinner on my 1970’s ‘vintage cooker’ which totally has a mind of it’s own, not to mention the challenge of having to cope with only minimal worktop space in which to prepare a meal from scratch/bake.  Then there’s the storage issues…..  I have actual bruises on my forehead from where various items have fallen on my head when I’ve opened the cupboard doors………… Anyway I digress, our kitchen is a fire hazard because the front right ring on the cooker hob refuses to turn off (unless the cooker is switched off at the wall) and I keep forgetting!  So far, I’ve burned my favourite cream woollen scarf, scorched two wooden chopping boards and melted no end of plastic packaging.  So the quicker we find our builders, and get the building regulations sorted out, the better! I’m sorely tempted to start ripping up the carpet in the kitchen (well I say carpet, they’re actually carpet tiles, even worse!), scrape off the wallpaper and chip off the plastic tiles from the ceiling, but if I do that and the builders can’t start for six months, then IB will have to make sure he keeps the matches out of my way!!

Maybe I should write into one of the décor magazines and ask a diy agony aunt for advice/help. Seriously, the parallels between the fashion magazine world and the décor/diy magazine world just get stronger and stronger.  Instead of solving your beauty dilemmas, these magazines aim to sort out your diy and decorating dilemmas. In one magazine you can contact the ‘House Clinic’, and get all sorts of questions answered like what wall colour will work with a certain tile, where to go to buy animal print velvet and where to source wallpaper that resembles laid brick!! Mind you I’m not sure I know why anyone would want such a thing, but there you go! Anyway, no doubt by the end of a year or two of working on this house, I’ll be bombarding them with questions.

One nice thing I’ve done this week is to start looking at lighting options for the living room. We still have a bare light bulb in there and it’s starting to annoy both of us.  I found a wonderful website called where there’s lots of great inspiration! They feature options for all rooms in the house, not just the living rooom.





And if I can’t find anything there, I might be able to do a course and make my own lampshades courtesy of  an online directory of courses from interior design to cookery to scuba diving. Actually, forget making lampshades, maybe I should do a cookery course, that way we’d get a decent meal once a week!

Lips, lintels and lights!

15 Apr

So now why is it that if I’m going to do anything dippy or silly in my DIY endeavours, IB is always around? (or hunky boiler man who may be coming back next month to do some more work for us, I might move out for the week!) Given how much time I spend home alone it just doesn’t seem fair.  Yesterday for example, I managed to give myself a fat lip whilst wrestling some old curtains (what else, curtains have been a source of torment for me one way or another since we moved in!) off a wide white, highly bendy old curtain track! I was tugging downwards very hard on the curtain to get one particularly stubborn hook off the track and as the curtain hook and track parted company, the track snapped back up right into my face, with my top lip taking most of the force. One cold cloth and fat lip later, I had to explain to IB what had happened and instead of sympathy I got an afternoon of curtain related jokes! See if it had happened on a week day, he wouldn’t have been home till the evening, by which time the swelling would have gone down and IB would have been none the wiser!

Anyway, on a more positive note, things are progressing well in the bathroom, guest room and living room. In the guest room, DIY dad has managed to turn the room a more acceptable shade of yellow with his half white emulsion, half Dulux hazy daze mixture. The walls are now more of a pale morning sunlight colour rather than full-on, I’m standing in the mid-day sun yellow.  The woodwork still needs painting and the door has to be changed, but already it feels like a very different room to when we started out.

do it yourself blog guest room

Meanwhile in the bathroom, IB has put up the new mirror. He finally tracked down the mirror of his dreams –on ebay last week,  one with a shaver socket AND a light.

do it yourself blog bathroom mirro

I have to admit, even though I wasn’t keen on the whole modern mirror idea – you may recall I wanted something framed with a bit more character – it does look quite good.  The little silver disc protrusion at the top is actually the light which is controlled by a little sensor at the base of the mirror that you wave your hand under to turn the light on.  Very Star Trekesque!

Back downstairs in the living room, DIY dad was very busy on Friday putting up curtain poles. It took a lot longer than planned, as has been the case with so many of the projects (big and small) we’ve undertaken to date. In this case it was because for both windows, in order to put the brackets for the curtain poles in the right spot, DIY dad had to drill holes into the supporting lintels. Four broken drill bits, several hours, and a number of expletives later, he was done! For the first hour after they went up, IB and I weren’t entirely convinced we’d made the right choice with the pattern and colour, but I think we’d just got so used to the purple sheet and sticky tape look that it took us a while to adjust to having real curtains up.

do it yourself blog

Front window

do it yourself blog French doors

French doors

Finally, this week, I’ve discovered a brilliant website called It covers every room in the house and for each one offers lots of different photos of layout/decorating options. So for example for kitchens, it has sections filled with photos and advice on country kitchens, L-shaped kitchens, modern kitchens and there’s even a section on ‘handleless’ kitchens! It also offers a great ‘how to’ section that includes advice on how to save money on DIY which I’m off to read now!

A tank, a leak and a piece of putty

4 Apr

So it seems like doing DIY and renovating your house is a bit like real life, it’s a bumpy road! Just when you think things are going well, the gods throw a little something your way to shake things up a bit. Minutes after I posted my blog on Sunday celebrating the near completion of the bathroom, IB and I suddenly heard a noise that sounded very much like rushing water.  A high-speed sprint out of the living room and up the stairs proved it was exactly that.  It turns out, while we’d been standing around earlier in the evening appreciating our new bathroom, above our heads, the cold water tank had cracked and water was pouring out, soaking through the ten inch deep insulation and the wooden beams, getting ready to push its way out through the ceiling an hour or so later. By the time we got up the stairs, there was water running all down the walls and huge great damp dark patches all over the carpet. On a positive note though, the woodchip on the ceiling has peeled away and started to bubble up, so that’s one job that’s going to be a little easier!

do it yourself bllog The leak



Anyway, we thought we’d have to rush out and buy a new tank  – the current one is plastic and it seems the supporting wooden framework was built around it once it was put in place so it’s not coming out without a fight – but thanks to the nice man at Toolstation, we’ve bought ourselves some time. Toolstation in case you don’t know is like the Asda of the tool world. It’s owned by the man who used to run Screwfix, a big competitor of B&Q until they got fed up and bought it out (who says I don’t know my DIY store history). Anyway, IB LOVES Toolstation. He has their catalogue, he’s on their mailing list and if he goes missing in the middle of a DIY job, I know that’s where he’ll be. Toolstation is to IB what shoe shops are to me, except I don’t get to play in shoe shops anymore!

Anyway, K., who manages our local Toolstation, and who IB now has on speed dial, recommended a £3 pack of ‘structural bonding putty’  telling IB to smear it  all along the ‘fault line’ in the water tank and it’s actually done the trick! We’re on day three now with no sign of any more leaking! It’s only a short-term fix of course, we definitely can’t cross a new cold water tank off our list but we can maybe wait until we’re doing up the en suite bathroom and have it fitted at the same time as the new shower and sink.

On a much more positive note, the living room has been painted (sneak preview shots below)  – well everything except the skirting boards. As I write DIY Dad is up a ladder touching up little bits of stray Montelmare paint on the coving!  Still lots to be sorted as always, but we’re getting there!


do it yourself blog Remember This

Remember this?


do it yourself blog

Tah Dah!


To infinity and beyond……….

30 Mar

Well it had to happen! I’m in trouble with my DIY dad for neglecting my paint brushes. Apparently I don’t wash the paint out of them properly and that’s why several of them have gone hard and are unusable. It’s all true I’m afraid, I’m guilty as charged. My only defence is that by the time I’ve finished painting everyday I’m usually in a rush to get tidied up and back on the road in time for the school run. So often all my paint brushes get is a two minute rinse under the taps and then they are abandoned on the landing where we’ve taken to housing all our painting paraphernalia.

Anyway, in the interest of being able to hold my DIY head up high, and to save us a small fortune in replacement paint brushes, I have vowed to change my ways! And to that effect, here is a top DIY tip – after you rinse off your brushes, put them in a ziplock food bag and apparently they stay bendy and pliable and don’t dry out into rock hard lumps that are only fit for cracking walnut shells!

My second top painting tip today was given to me by C. the painter last night when he popped in with his buddy S. to see if  S. could do a bit of last minute plastering in the bathroom for us in the area where the bath is going to be fitted on Saturday (I am SO excited!). His advice was when painting bathrooms always use eggshell or soft sheen paint, apparently it doesn’t absorb as much moisture as matt paint, so it’s more hardwearing and long-lasting. It’s not such an issue in other rooms as they don’t obviously have the same moisture challenges as bathrooms.  Unfortunately this tip came too late for IB and me as our bathroom is now coated with 100% matt again. It’s kind of ironic though that we should get the advice exactly a week after we ‘accidentally’ gave the walls a second coat of brilliant white in soft sheen rather than matt.

In terms of progress on the living room since earlier in the week, the coving is now finished! And we have cornerpieces! Yes my friends, we decided that the corners were missing a little something, so after an hour on the internet, we found these:



And actually they do make the corners look a little more complete!Although I’m not sure you can tell in this picture as everything is currently coated in a layer of primer.

do it yourself blog

Look closely!


do it yourself blog cornices

Living room primed and corniced!


My DIY Dad (who is just visible in the corner of this shot) is keen that we go the whole hog and put up a rosebowl centrepiece, but I’m not so sure, nor is IB. Also, given we haven’t yet chosen the light fitting for the living room yet,  and we could end up with something that sits close to the ceiling, we’ve opted to hold fire for now. In terms of lighting, I’ve done a little bit of scouting around but I’m tempted to wait till the painting is finished and get a feel for the room before we make a final choice. Although in keeping with my nostalgia for afternoon tea with china teacups and cake stands, I’m quite drawn to antique chandeliers at the moment, which are quite pricey but there are some less expensive replicas on the high street. Interestingly when I was looking at one online earlier, Invisible Hand kicked in (does everyone know about this? Its genius, you load it on to your computer and when you find a possible online purchase, it will pop up and show you other sites that are selling a similar item and how much for. It’s aim is to find you the same item for less) and rather bizarrely as well as providing a link to several other sites selling chandeliers, it gave me a link to a Buzz Lightyear Adult fancy dress costume on Amazon! This has nothing whatsoever to do with chandeliers (unless I’m not being very clever), however, it kept me and IB amused for at least five minutes! What do you think – should we forgo the chandelier and just order a couple of Buzz Lightyear costumes instead? They could be our painting outfits! To infinity and beyond…………..


How would IB look in this I wonder!

Project plan – what project plan?!

28 Mar

Beware the Dame is in pain – again! This time it’s a paint brush injury. The skin on my index finger has rubbed right off leaving raw red flesh on display! Very attractive! On the plus side, it is proof for IB of how hard I’ve been working while he’s been away on his business trip!! On the down side though, it does make painting harder which  is why I’ve started to wear a thick industrial style rubber glove on my right hand when I’m painting – very Michael Jacksonesque!

The thing that occurred to me this week as I laboured away slapping primer on the guest bedroom walls while my dad worked downstairs putting the  coving up in the living room, was how much longer everything is taking than I thought it would. I thought once we’d got the walls of both the rooms plastered then everything would pick up pace and within a couple of weeks they would be painted and ready to go. But now I realise that I was a little naive and overly optimistic and Sarah Beeny would probably say I told you so!

For example in the living room the coving has taken the best part of three days to put up, rather than the one day we allowed in the project plan (by which I mean the unofficial timeline we’re working to in my head where the room is ready in time for Easter weekend). Putting up coving is not as easy or quick a job as it might look and my DIY dad is a perfectionist so extra time has to be allowed for that. On the plus side it means he is doing a really professional job. He’s even filled in all the tiny gaps between the coving and the walls (of which there are many, a by-product of the walls being so uneven), whereas  I might have been tempted to  start slapping the paint on and hope for the best!  But not my DIY dad. He has painstakingly filled all the gaps in, even the tiniest of them. He then spent yesterday afternoon sanding the whole lot down, paying particular attention to the joins in the coving, sanding and rubbing for hours until the filler /coving cement was smooth and shiny.

do it yourself blog Coving


do it yourself blog


The whole process puts me in mind of icing a cake and the painstaking effort of making sure you roll the icing out thinly enough to cover the whole cake. Then you have the challenge of getting  it flush against the cake, with no lumps or bumps before you get the icing plane out and rub and rub until you have a really smooth almost satin finish all over giving you the perfect surface to ice on! Shouldn’t have written about cakes, now I fancy some, but only if its chocolate cake………I’m resisting posting a picture of chocolate cake because I know that just means I’ll have to stop writing and go and make some!

Upstairs in the guest bedroom, things are not progressing any faster. Priming the walls and the ceiling took a day (my  DIY day lasts from 9am-3pm which is when the kids are in school!). Then I’ve had to sand down the skirting boards, architrave and that funny little bit of wood that’s embedded in the ceiling which I actually think is quite cute and is a nice feature of the room, or it will be when it receives some TLC. I think this room in particular has the potential to be a nice little oasis in the house. Its got a real country cottage feel, not only because of the curve in the ceilings, but also given its tucked away in the corner of the house, overlooking the garden. Actually speaking of the garden, I must take some pictures later in the week, its bursting into life at the moment and is the nicest place to escape to on my painting breaks.


do it yourself blot

Guest room 'feature'


Post primer painting will start in earnest in the guest room tomorrow, although even that’s not a simple job. Because we can’t put coving up in this room (due to the sloping ceilings I just mentioned, which you can see more clearly in the pre-plastering picture below) I have to make sure that the paint goes on in a nice straight line at the point where the wall and the ceiling meet.

do it yourself blog

See the slope?


That’s where this little beauty comes in:



do it yourself blog

My new toy


It’s a ‘precision edging pad’, recommended by a friend. It’s meant to make painting edges of any sort, along ceilings, skirting boards, sides of doors, wherever, so much easier. It promises no drips and no mess! I’ve yet to try it but I’ll let you know how it goes.

Anyway, in summary, this week, I’m a bit worried that we’re falling behind and that the living room and the guest bedroom won’t be completed in time for Easter. But you know what my wise DIY Dad said yesterday? ‘If they’re not, they’re not’ and you know what, I’ve decided he’s right. If I stress about getting everything finished by a certain date, then it takes away the pleasure of progress! And that would be a shame given I am STILL loving doing the renovations, in spite of angsting over my project plan timeline! In particular I can’t wait to see what the colours we’ve chosen for the guest room and the living room  look like once we’ve painted the walls. And of course once the paint is on, then the fun bit comes, i.e. shopping for cushions, bedspreads, carpets, lamps………………. (notice how I didn’t mention curtains?!)

DIY Dads

25 Mar

So what does every DIY Dame need when faced with a massive house renovation project (apart from a lottery win)? Answer a DIY Dad, who after a couple of years spent in retirement has now finished all the little jobs that he needed to do in his own house and so is happy to come and help a daughter in DIY distress. My DIY dad landed in at 2pm and already he and IB have started to work on putting up the coving in living room. So we’ve gone from this:


do it yourself blog No Coving

No Coving!


To this:

do it yourself blog Coving

First piece of coving in place!


My dad’s going to prime the walls next week and then paint them, then sand and paint the skirting boards and the doors, then there’s the curtain poles to put up……………… I’m not sure if he realises how long a list we’ve got for him, but he is stopping for about three weeks and as long as we feed him lots of nice food and more importantly puddings (his is a lover of apple pie and treacle sponge) I know he’ll happily work his way through it.

So, what else has been happening over the weekend? Well in terms of correcting last week’s painting disaster in the bathroom, IB has now sanded down the walls so they are all ready for me to repaint tomorrow (hunky plumber man is not due round for ANY reason, so I think I’m good to go). I would have repainted them over the weekend but I’m happy to report that I couldn’t get into the bathroom over the weekend as our builder K. and plumber K. were busy working in there. All the new plumbing and pipework  is now securely in place, the awful chunky pink water-pipe has been boxed in and best news of all……………………. the floor tiles are down! As I type the grouting is drying which is just as well as it’s quite a dark brown, pretty much the same colour as the tiles. When IB called me into the bathroom earlier to show me, the first thing I said was that the floor looked like a giant bar of Dairy Milk – well what would you say when confronted with this………………..


do it yourself blog My giant bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk

My giant bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk!


do it yourself blog Floor Tiiles


IB rolled his eyes and told me I’m obsessed. He does have a point I suppose, I do talk about chocolate A LOT and think about {eating} it even more and having a bathroom floor that looks like a chocolate bar is not going to help my addiction!  Even just writing these words is reminding me of the bar of dark chocolate and raspberries (from Divine) that my friend who came to tea last week brought for me. Actually I think there might be a few squares left……………………………. Anyway as long as the grout does dry a few shades lighter than the tiles, the chocolate effect should pass and my addiction will be contained!

The other thing I wanted to mention, only because anyone following my blog will know what a big deal this is for me, as of Friday afternoon, I am the proud and content owner of living room CURTAINS!!! Hurrah! I found them last week  but before I bought them I wanted to make sure they would work in the living room, but the shop didn’t have any swatches/samples for me to borrow so I had to buy the matching cushion cover. When I took it to the til to pay, I had a bit of a shock. The cushion cover (JUST the cushion cover, there was no cushion inside!) was twenty-three pounds! Twenty three pounds for ONE cushion cover, and it wasn’t even a top of the range cushion cover or a designer one. Now I’ve checked with a few friends and I am definitely not the only one who is shocked by this. Twenty three pounds for two squares of material sewn together with a zip down one side seems a little over the top to me, especially when you typically need four to six of them for a sofa. I wish somebody had told me  when I was a little girl how lucrative the cushion cover industry is! Anyway if I manage to nail the curtain making thing (which I’m planning to try for the guest bedroom), then I’m sure I can crack cushion covers. We’ll make a saving and I might just have a new career in the pipeline!